Supreme Court Denies Standing & Allows Costs Against Voting Rights Activist
Specifically, Landes challenged the use of voting machines and absentee voting in elections for public office. The defendants in the lawsuit were Margaret Tartaglione, Chair of the City Commissioners of Philadelphia; Pedro A. Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States.
Landes says that the court's decision does not mean that the use of obstructive and non-transparent voting processes or technologies is constitutional. But, it doesn't send a good signal, either.
"Since I represented myself without the support of a voting rights organization, this decision may be a matter of the Court not taking me seriously, rather than any reflection on the case itself," says Landes. She points out that the Third Circuit based its dubious decision on three cases that had nothing to do with elections, voting rights, or challenges to the constitutionality of state and/or federal law.
Landes encourages activists to continue to pursue legal action, but adds a strong note of caution. "The Court is now packed with extremely conservative judges who are taking extraordinary steps to discourage civil rights litigants," she warns.
In what appears to be a punitive measure, the Supreme Court let stand the Third Circuit's judgment to tax court costs against Landes as the plaintiff, an unusual move in a civil rights case. The Third Circuit's ruling ignored previous U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC (1978) and Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.(1994). In the latter case, Justice William Rehnquist stated, "... we found (it) to be the important policy objectives of the Civil Rights statutes, and the intent of Congress to achieve such objectives through the use of plaintiffs as "`private attorney[s] general.'"
In light of the Court's
action, Landes is again emphasizing the critical need for
'open voting'. In a
January 2005 article, Landes called for activists to conduct Parallel
Elections outside of official polling places as a check against official
election results. Activists in
Landes also suggests that any candidate for elective office request that voters mail that candidate a letter indicating the voter's name, address, signature, a witness's signature, and for which candidate they voted. It should be mailed directly after the voter has voted at the polls. Candidates should delay conceding or declaring victory for at least a week after the election in order to allow sufficient time to receive these unofficial ballots.
Something similar to this
idea was put into practice last winter in
Lastly, since it appears
Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading
journalists on voting technology and democracy issues. She has also written on
the subject of the environment and health. Readers can find her articles and
research at EcoTalk.org. Formerly,